Episodic high intensity mixing events in a subterranean estuary: Effects of tropical cyclones

Smith, Christopher G., Jaye E. Cable, Jonathan B. Martin

Limnol. Oceanogr., 53(2), 2008, 666-674 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2008.53.2.0666

ABSTRACT: Hydrostatic balances between fresh and saline groundwater and saline surface water control the physical and chemical framework of subterranean estuaries, but they are responsive to high frequency (waves and tides), low frequency (seasonal recharge patterns), and episodic (storm) events. In this study, we document a salinity and pressure perturbation to the subterranean estuary in east-central Florida during and after the passage of Tropical Storm Tammy on 04 Oct 2005-05 Oct 2005 and Hurricane Wilma on 24 Oct 2005. These storms reversed hydraulic gradients, forced lagoon water into the aquifer, and shifted the outflow face landward. Salinity at 1.5 m and 2.5 m below a common datum converged on similar values intermediate between fresh and lagoon water salinities. The outflow face reestablished pre-storm conditions after 80 days at 15 m offshore, but more than 160 days at 30 m offshore, confirming that both the flow field and fluid sources control the position of the subterranean estuary. Episodic, high intensity events could influence the biogeochemical setting of the subterranean estuary and the overlying water body by altering redox conditions in the subterranean estuary during the landward migration of the dispersive mixing zone, increasing short-term discharge of potentially contaminated groundwater, and/or changing pore fluid residence time within the seepage face and along the mixing zone-seepage face front.

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